THE USED On Celebrating The Human Element During The Recording Process

The Canyon, the seventh incendiary and politically charged album from The Used, displays the growth of a band that was once steeped in demons and self-deprecation, yet one that continues to use their platform to both inform and pacify their fans. The foursome, consisting of vocalist Bert McCracken, guitarist Justin Shekoski, drummer Dan Whitesides, and bassist Jeph Howard, are sonically more cohesive than ever. It’s palpable from the pulsating nature of “For You,” the very first song on the new record, to the deeply introspective closer “The Mouth of the Canyon.” In an exclusive interview with Performer Magazine, Howard reveals that it’s the most comfortable they’ve ever been recording an album as a group.

“This record was extremely organic. We switched up producers and worked with Ross Robinson on The Canyon. He pushed us; it was a long recording process because Ross was pushing and pulling, trying to get all of the goods out of us. He’s more based off the recording style I agree with: feeling first and playability second. Mistakes are cool and if you’re playing it well and your vibe is solid, then that’s a good take. Sometimes a little mistake will stand out and shine in a good way. And this record was sort of recorded that way; it was more focused on the vibe of everything and the wholeness and trying to keep that together and not lose it. Nowadays, computers can just suck out the vibe.”

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Once the topic of how technology has affected modern-day music comes to the surface, Howard becomes passionate when explaining the toll it has taken on artists. “The difference between humans and computers is that when you tell a computer to do something, they’re not going to mess it up–they do it mathematically and they do exactly what you say. But humans are just prone to make mistakes–nothing’s perfect. If there’s a metronome happening, we breathe on the metronome; someone will play a little bit faster, someone will play a little bit slower. But the whole group will work together–flaws and all–and that’s what we were relying on with The Canyon.

The Used has a career spanning nearly two decades that seamlessly survived the dreaded–but often inevitable–lineup change (Whitesides replaced Branden Steineckert in 2006, Shekoski replaced Quinn Allman in 2015). Howard insists, though, that the band possesses one vital quality that has carried them since the 2002 release of their self-titled debut album. “What we want and what we strive for is…we’re real. We’re relatable because we’re not trying to be above anyone else. We’re not better than anyone; I’m not the best bass player in the world. If you come to a show, I’m sure you’ll notice a few fuck ups that I do. We want people to know that we are just people.”

He also ties in how The Canyon reiterates this message. “We’re so excited about this record and how deep this it is. I know it’s long, but that’s why you need to keep going back to it. I’ve never felt this excited about a record that we’ve made before–which is strange for me to say. But for those of you who weren’t sure about The Canyon on the first try, just give it another listen: you have no idea what’s in there.”

*photos by Megan Thompson 

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